Australia’s top white-ball players are poised to miss around half of England’s revolutionary Hundred tournament because of a one-day series against Zimbabwe in August.
While Cricket Australia is still yet to finalise details for the three-match series against the world’s 12th-ranked ODI side, cricket sources have told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that players have been advised that if selected for the Zimbabwe series they will need to report to a training camp in Brisbane by August 4.
That will mean that the Aussie players involved in The Hundred and the Zimbabwe series will need to depart England by August 2 in order to be back for the camp.
The upshot is that assuming they are selected to play against Zimbabwe, a group of Australia’s leading players will need to depart England at the midway point of the flagship English white-ball competition, which begins this year and features various innovations, most notably that matches will be 100-balls per side.
A host of Australia’s white-ball stars – including captain Aaron Finch, superstar Steve Smith, reigning Allan Border Medallist David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell – stand to be affected.
That group, along with Nathan Coulter-Nile, D’Arcy Short and Daniel Christian, were all signed by Hundred sides in last year’s draft. Australian men's national team assistant coach Andrew McDonald, coach of The Hundred's Birmingham Phoenix, could also be affected.
The inaugural Hundred tournament begins on July 17, culminating in a final at Lord’s on August 15.
The tournament begins only a day after Australia’s one-day international series against England concludes in Bristol.
Multi-format Aussie players are facing a heavy mid-year workload, with a Test tour of Bangladesh leading into the white-ball tour of England before the Zimbabwe series, which sources expect to be played in the Top End.
Under International Cricket Council rules, CA must issue no-objection certificates to allow centrally contracted players to feature in overseas competition.
While some player agents have expressed frustration at the fact their clients will miss a large chunk of the groundbreaking English tournament for a series against one of world cricket’s relative minnows, CA player contracts clearly stipulate that national duties come first. The governing body has also stressed that players were aware of the looming Zimbabwe series before they entered the Hundred draft.
The situation mirrors that which routinely affects the Big Bash League when overseas players are recalled by their home boards for series. The Melbourne Stars were affected twice in the just-completed season, with Haris Rauf (Pakistan) and Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal) both missing periods of the BBL season because of international commitments.
While the Zimbabwe series looms as a relatively low-key event, it forms part of the ICC’s Cricket World Cup Super League, meaning it forms part of the qualifying process for the 2023 World Cup.
Australia's bilateral engagements with Zimbabwe have been relatively rare, with Zimbabwe not touring Australia for a non-global event since the summer of 2003-04. Australia did however tour Zimbabwe for white-ball series in 2014 and 2018.
The ICC barred Zimbabwe from international cricket for three months last year because of political interference in the country but they have since been readmitted, losing a two-Test series to Sri Lanka 1-0 earlier this year.
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